11.11.2014 Author: Viktor Titov
Saudi Arabia has recently witnessed the aggression that should have happened sooner or later due to its short-sighted policy in Syria, Iraq and Iran. As an old saying goes: “If you dig a hole for others, you’re sure to fall in it yourself.”
A few days ago the Saudi town of Dalva, situated in the oil-rich Eastern Province, suffered an attack of a group of armed Sunni terrorists, which resulted in seven civilian deaths. Most of the attackers were citizens of the Kingdom. The promt response of the local security forces allowed the servicemen to detain 20 members of an underground terrorist group, consisting mainly of those who had previously fought under the black banner of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Law enforcement agencies of Saudi Arabia have managed to capture the head of the armed group, his name is kept secret. The only information that has become available to journalists is that this commander has recently returned from Syria where he was fighting against the pro-Assad forces.
Riyadh is now facing a harsh dilemma: on the one hand, the House of Saud is actively oppressing its Shia citizens, on the pretext of their disloyalty and their alleged attempts to undermine the national security of the kingdom due to the “evil Iranian influence.” On the other – Sunni terrorists, that Saudi Arabia is fighting today alongside with its closest ally – the US, have assaulted Shia civilians on the Saudi soil, and those were virtually enjoying the same rights as the rest of the population, including the right for protection. It is now official: Saudi citizens motivated by religious hatred are commiting manslaughter of their fellow citizens.
The only question is how Riyadh may react when the Sunni terrorists that it had trained and funded will unleash a wave of terror against the Shia population of KSA? A similar course of events has already taken place in the neighboring Bahrain back in 2011, but Saudi regular troops were fast to cross the border in an attempt to prevent the violence from spreading.
It is no coincidence that the events in the city of Dalva are completely ignored by the international media. Should this fact become widely known then the Saudi authorities will be forced to recognize the threat ISIL poses to Saudi Arabia along with acknowledging the underlying instability of Saudi society that can endanger the ruling Wahhabi regime.
Now that the Shia population of the Eastern Province is buzzing with discontent, the House of Saud has found itself in a tight corner. Should the authorities fail to prosecute the terrorists a violent unrest of the Shia population, similar the one that shook Saudi Arabia in 2011 -2012, in the wake of the above mentioned events in Bahrain, will be quick to follow. But if the terrorists are to be punished to the fullest extent of the Sharia law, then the Wahhabis and Salafis will accuse the royal family of “betrayal” of the Sunnis. This course of events will end no better, with a massive wave of violent terror attacks, carried out by ISIL militants all across Saudi Arabia. Now that ISIL thugs have faced harsh resistance in Syria and Iraq, they will be eager to move south to start a “sacred struggle against the corrupt pro-American reign of Al Saud family“. As for the Iraqi Shia population, they can only welcome this U-turn in their ongoing struggle against Islamists. Moreover, it is possible that the indignation of the Saudi Shia population of the Eastern Province will find some form of support in Tehran and Baghdad. This means that the fate of the kingdom’s territorial integrity will be put to the test. The nightmares of the Saudi ruling family seems to be coming true — Saudi Arabia can be split into several parts, which had been joined together to create the kingdom back in 1929. This trend can be accelerated by the fact that a couple of weeks ago the Shia Houthis rebels seized power in Yemen, on the south-western borders of the KSA.
When Riyadh joined the US “anti-terrorist” coalition back in October, along with a number of NATO and GCC countries, political predicted the imminent revenge of ISIL.
So the events of November 4 may only be the first steps. On top of all, Saudi authorities have yielded to the US demands of dumping oil prices in an attempt to undermine Russia’s economy. This led to the narrowing scope of social initiatives being implemented in the Kingdom, since money became scarce in the royal treasury.
By agreeing to support the US global ambitions, the House of Saud has clearly shot itself in the foot. Especially now, when Washington has displayed its willingness to sign an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in two weeks time. This step will force Saudi Arabia to kiss it oil monopoly goodbye along with the role of the main strategic partner of the US in the region. At this point Riyadh couldn’t care less about the US military adventures in Iraq and Syria, it going to try to save its skin
It is clear that the coming days will put the Al-Saud dynasty’s survival skills to the test. Should the KSA authorities fail to keep the situation in the Eastern Province under control — the Kingdom is doomed. With each passing day the Shiite arc becomes more apparent on the political horizon of the Middle East, just like the US miscalculations.
As soon as Washington is trying to project its influence in the region, the Arab regimes are beginning to crumble and fall apart. One can recall the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, along with the civil wars in Syria and Iraq to illustrate this statement.
It is now safe to say that Obama has screwed everything up again by putting its strategic partner in danger. It seems that the defeat in the US midterm elections was a failure all right, yet he never stops to surprise his followers. And it is unlikely that the Republicans will be fascinated by the sight of Saudi Arabia going down in flames.
Viktor Titov, Ph.D in Historical Sciences and political commentator on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook
While the green movement naively harbors hopes it will be able to shut down unconventional oil and gas development, in Saudi Arabia they are already contemplating a time when North American fossil fuel will replace their oil.
Looking past the din of protesters, state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco is resigned to the fact that its influence will wane because of the massive unconventional fossil-fuel development underway in North America. As such, Saudi Arabia has no plans to raise its production output to 15 million barrels per day from 12 million, said Khalid Al-Falih, the powerful chief executive of Aramco.
“There is a new emphasis in the industry on unconventional liquids, and shale gas technologies are also being applied to shale oil,” Al-Falih, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, warned a domestic audience in a speech in Riyadh Monday.
“Some are even talking about an era of ‘energy independence’ for the Americas, based on the immense conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon resources located there. While that might be stretching the point, it is clear that the abundance of resources and the more ‘balanced’ geographical distribution of unconventional’s have reduced the much-hyped concerns over ‘energy security’, which once served as the undercurrent driving energy policies and dominated the global energy debate.”
Aramco is the powerful state entity that manages the Kingdom’s nine million barrel-plus oil output. Saudi Arabia has long dominated oil markets by leveraging its spare oil capacity and, as the OPEC kingpin, striking a delicate balance between the interests of oil consumers and the exporter group.
But the oil chief’s remarks reveal Saudi fears that the market dynamics are changing and its dominance over energy markets is under threat by new unconventional finds.
OPEC estimated in a recent report that global reserves of tight oil could be as high as 300 billion barrels, above Saudi Arabia’s conventional reserves of 260 billion barrels, which are currently seen as the second-largest in the world after Venezuela.
Global output of non-conventional oil is set to rise 3.4 million bpd by 2015, still dominated by oil sands, to 5.8 million bpd by 2025 and to 8.4 million bpd by 2035, when tight oil would be playing a much bigger role. By 2035, the United States and Canada will still be dominating unconventional oil production with 6.6 million bpd, the group forecasts.
Last year, even as the world consumed nearly 30 billion barrels of oil, not only was the industry able to replace this production but global petroleum reserves actually increased by nearly seven billion barrels, as companies increasingly turned toward higher risk areas, Al-Falih noted.
Clearly, the Kingdom is preparing for new market realities as the discussion on energy has changed from scarcity to abundance, particularly due to the new finds that can be produced feasibly and economically.
In the past, Saudi Arabia, along with its OPEC allies, could drive prices down by opening the taps to ensure unconventional fossil fuels remained firmly buried in the ground. But most analysts now expect oil prices to remain high, at least over the medium term, thanks to tight supplies and continued demand from emerging markets. That’s great news for Canadian oil sands developers, which need prices around US$60 to US$70 per barrel to make their business models economically feasible.
Saudi Arabia’s own break-even oil price has also risen sharply in the past few years, making it less likely to pursue a strategy of lower prices. The Institute of International Finance estimates that Saudi Arabia’s break-even price has shot up US$20 over the past year to US$88, in part due to a generous spending package of US$130-billion announced this year to keep domestic unrest at bay.
The Saudis now find themselves between a shale rock and a hard place: While high crude prices mean the Saudis can maintain their excessive domestic subsidies for citizens, in the long run that means the world is developing new sources, making it less dependent on Saudi oil.
Although the Saudis have vigorously fought the Ethical Oil ads, which paint them in a negative light, they already know their oil is less welcome in the Americas – Saudi oil made up a mere 9.3% of U.S. oil imports last year, down from 11.2% five years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
But while Saudis would be cheering on the green groups with ‘No KXL’ signs, they don’t hold out much hope for renewable energies either. Calling them ‘green bubbles,’ Al-Falih says governments should stop focusing on unproven and expensive energy mix, as there is frankly no appetite for massive investments in expensive, ill thought-out energy policies and pet projects.
“The confluence of four new realities – increasing supplies of oil and gas, the failure of alternatives to gain traction, the inability of economies to foot the bill for expensive energy agendas, and shifting environmental priorities – have turned the terms of the global energy dialogue upside down. Therefore, we must recast our discussion in light of actual conditions rather than wishful thinking,” the pragmatic chief said.
Somebody should explain this wishful thinking to the green movement.
- New oil reserves seen reducing Saudi Arabias importance (theglobeandmail.com)
- Saudis worry over North American shale oil surge (business.financialpost.com)
Posted by Angela Khan on April 8, 2011
Robert Gates, the U.S. Defense Secretary, had a private meeting with King Abdullah on Wednesday, in Riyadh, for an hour and a half, trying to repair the increasingly damaged relations between the two countries.
Gates described the discussion as “extremely cordial”. He said that he refused to address one of the most controversial topics: Abdullah’s decision to send troops in an effort to ending the uprising in Bahrain, disregarding the call of the President Barack Obama, who asked him not to do so.
Abdullah, angry at Obama
After the resignation of the former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, the Saudis have canceled the Riyadh visit that Gates and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton planned to pay, saying that the king does not feel well. But Pentagon officials and State Department had every reason to wonder whether Abdullah was more angry than sick.
As per the later declaration of an Arab official, the willingness of the King Abdullah to listen to the Obama administration has “evaporated” after the ouster of Mubarak. A correspondent of NBC conveyed yesterday that Saudi Arabia is “so angry” at Obama, that it has sent senior officials in China and Russia to seek business opportunities in both countries.
( Original Article )